Books by Patrick O’Brien

Released: Sept. 18, 2018

"Kudos to this prehistoric Buzz Lightyear…long may he sail the spaceways. (Graphic picture book. 7-9)"
The space-roving dinosaur and his scaly crew return at last for another awesome rescue mission. Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2009

Pairing a present-tense text to photorealistic digital paintings, O'Brien invites readers to take an entirely credible journey to Mars. The second-person trip begins with a young, white, apparently male tourist's near-future ride up the space elevator to a space station, followed by a rocket flight to the Mars orbital base and then a quick descent to the small colony complex on the surface. After observing scientists at work, outings in a wheeled vehicle and the MarsPlane not only take "you" past the old Sojourner rover but also provide glimpses of Olympus Mons and the immense Valles Marineris. Six months later, it's back to Earth: "You have gone where no kid has gone before." The gear and human figures look as real as the settings, and though the author's repeated claim that Mars is the closest planet is a debatable one, so strong is the sense of verisimilitude that children may be surprised to learn that they can't (yet!) make the trip themselves. (Mars facts) (Speculative nonfiction. 6-9)Read full book review >
SABERTOOTH by Patrick O’Brien
Released: July 1, 2008

Sabertooth is actually the name for a group of large prehistoric cats, distant cousins of today's tigers. This dramatic introduction describes the group, especially the well-known Smilodon. O'Brien describes skeletons found fossilized in the La Brea Tar Pits and suggests theories about how and what the cats hunted. An actual size Smilodon fang contrasts with the much smaller canine tooth of today's tiger, and a double-page spread of possible fur colors and patterns emphasizes that fossils don't provide this information. The detailed paintings portray other prehistoric predators and their prey, including Homo erectus in ancient Africa and early Native Americans, perhaps implying that they coexisted in time. The theory offered for Smilodon extinction—"the world was getting warmer"—is an over-simplification of the end of an Ice Age, and of various theories that include the co-extinction of the mammoths and the presence of human hunters. With a cover image of a snarling tiger, attractive design and relatively small amount of text, this may be irresistible, but buy with care. (Informational picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2007

Continuing the heroic work of making the spaceways safe for all law-abiding dinosaurs, Captain Raptor and the scaly crew of starship Megatooth return—this time in pursuit of the pirate ship Blackrot, whose bloodthirsty mob of "misshapen mutants and reptilian cyborgs" has stolen planet Jurassica's trove of jewels. Repeatedly escaping near-certain death ("Could this be the end of Captain Raptor?" becomes an almost-plaintive refrain), the daring deinonychus escapes ambush, a metal monster lurking in the Perilus Nebula and a pitched battle before (did you doubt?) bringing the scurvy knaves to justice. Rendered in realistic, gloriously melodramatic detail, the toothy, armored dinosaurs look ready to burst out of their comics-style panels, blasters blazing. O'Malley and O'Brien have way too much fun here, and the Captain's legions of fans will, too. (Picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 2007

A specialist in nautical art, O'Brien finds a ready subject for his talents here, pairing dramatic, realistically detailed scenes of sailing ships and small boats tossed on rough waters (or anchored near idyllic Pacific islands) with a lucid account of the Bounty's troubled final voyage, and the amazing 3,600 mile journey that Captain Bligh and a small group of loyal crewmembers were forced to undertake in an open boat after the mutiny. O'Brien tells the tale with a captioned mix of set pieces and sequential panels (the Tahitian women are demurely posed), carrying it through the British Navy's urgent but largely futile search for the mutineers and their settlement on Pitcairn Island, up to the present day. Though he characterizes Bligh as a brilliant sailor, it's the Captain's severe lack of people skills that comes through most clearly; still, an adventuresome tale, well told. (bibliography) (Picture book/nonfiction. 9-11)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2005

Young readers drawn by the gloriously toothy dinosaur posing on the cover of this tongue-in-cheek space opera may be astonished to discover that he's the episode's hero. Dispatched from Planet Jurassica to investigate a mysterious crash on a nearby moon, intrepid Captain Raptor (as in velociraptor) and his scaly crew weather a host of dangers—repeatedly punctuated by variations on "Could this be the end of Captain Raptor?"—before coming to the rescue of a stranded set of small, tail-less mammalian aliens. O'Brien illustrates the nonstop action in graphic-novel style, filling variously shaped panels with detailed scenes of colorful dinosaurs in retro body armor working riveted control panels, creeping through a jungle and similarly appropriate activities. In the end, Captain Raptor bids farewell to the grateful travelers from Earth and blasts off for some space exploration of his own. Readers not yet up to James Gurney's "Dinotopia" tales will roar with approval. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 2003

O'Brien describes 17 historic 20th-century flights in chronological order. A double spread for each has a full-page illustration, a page of concise description, and a sidebar with line diagrams, statistics, and interesting facts. From the Wright brothers and the Hindenburg to the Supersonic X-1 and the Pathfinder landing on Mars, the focal point is on the planes first and the pilots second. The photo-realistic watercolor-and-gouache illustrations are portraitures of the planes, the sidebar diagrams interestingly compiled on the endpapers in proportional scale. Back matter provides a bibliography and the location of where the planes are now; all but five are in museums. A fascinating aerial view of the progression of flying machines, both well- and little-known. Add this to the hangar full of aviation books this year. (Nonfiction. 7-11)Read full book review >
Released: March 15, 2003

A picture-book history illustrates the beginning of a new era in naval warfare. The age of wooden warships had come to an end. The Confederacy captured the shipyards of Portsmouth, Virginia, resurrected the Merrimack, and turned it into an ironclad fighting ship, intending to destroy Union ships in Norfolk and steam up the Potomac River to bomb Washington, D.C. Northern spies knew the plans, and an arms race began. "All the navies of the world were suddenly out-of-date." Union leaders hired inventor John Ericsson to create a new fighting machine. In 100 days, the Monitor was designed and created, towed to Hampton Roads, Virginia, and led into one of the greatest naval battles of all time. On March 9, 1862, with thousands of people watching from the shore, the two ships fought to a draw, never to meet again. Confederate forces later burned the Merrimack, or Virginia to avoid having it captured by Union forces, and the Monitor sank in a storm. O'Brien's clear and lively writing, dramatic watercolor and gouache illustrations, maps, and handsome, large-format design combine to make an appealing volume. An afterword explains how marine archaeologists found the Monitor off of Cape Hatteras in 1973, and the U.S. government has made the site of the wreck a national marine sanctuary. A sure-fire winner for young Civil War buffs. (Nonfiction. 6-10)Read full book review >
MAMMOTH by Patrick O’Brien
Released: Nov. 1, 2002

The author of Megatooth (1991) and Gigantic (1999) returns to prehistory to share the saga of the mammoth, an ancient relative of the elephant that wandered from Africa to Alaska before and during the last Ice Age. Using a large picture-book format and integrating spot watercolor illustrations throughout the text, he discusses how people learned of the mammoths, and then visualizes the world in which the mammoths flourished and then perished. While most people know of the woolly mammoth, O'Brien also describes several other species, including the steppe mammoth, imperial mammoth, Columbian mammoth, and even a dwarf mammoth, the size of a large dog, living on the island of Malta. Especially fine are the detailed drawings of other members of the mammoth family tree and comparison drawings of trunks, heads, and tusks of various mammoths. Libraries that have just purchased Caroline Arnold's When Mammoths Walked the Earth (p. 1026) may consider a second title covering much the same material redundant; however, O'Brien's title has less text and will better suit a younger reader. (Nonfiction. 5-9)Read full book review >
A COLD SNAP! by Audrey B. Baird
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

The opening lines set the stage for these perceptive, descriptive poems about winter. The reader is cautioned to "put on a sweater to read this book" and "turn up the thermostat." Baird (Storm Coming, not reviewed) is particularly adept at effectively engaging all the senses. Listen to the neighbors' clichés and the roar of the wind as a storm approaches. See the trees that "undress in winter" and the frost that forms "a glittering gown all over town." Winter breath "hangs frozen in the air—a balloon without strings." Feel the "stinging winds" and the "sleet pushing hard at my back," and feet that are "colder then Popsicles." Smell and taste the stew and the hot chocolate and cinnamon bread. Every nuance of the season is charmingly presented. There is humor here too, as the child waits for the radio to announce that her school is closed, as she expresses her appreciation of long underwear, and in the playful discussion of chili. O'Brien's illustrations are just right, some evoking the chill, some evoking the warmth, finding the perfect element of each poem. Curl up on a cold winter day and enjoy. (Poetry. 6-10)Read full book review >
THE GREAT SHIPS by Patrick O’Brien
Released: Oct. 1, 2001

Children with even a hint of the sea in their blood will pore wide-eyed over this album of dramatic ship paintings. O'Brien (Megatooth, p. 804, etc.) selects more than 20 vessels, ranging from the thousand-year-old Gokstad Ship to the nuclear carrier Enterprise, pairing several paragraphs of historical background for each to large, precisely detailed portraits. Drake's Golden Hind sails away from a burning Spanish victim; Admiral Cheng Ho's mammoth "Treasure Ship" glides by grandly; the Constitution dukes it out with the Guerriere, the Monitor with the Virginia, the Bismarck with the Hood. The clipper ship Flying Cloud seems to fly over the waves, while the Amistad and the Mayflower struggle, the Titanic sinks, and the Maine, well, blows up. O'Brien adds occasional human figures to show young viewers just how astonishingly small some of these renowned craft were, then finishes up with a note about each ship's current whereabouts. Armchair sailors will line up to come aboard. (Nonfiction. 8-11)Read full book review >
MEGATOOTH by Patrick O’Brien
Released: June 1, 2001

What's bigger than Elasmosaurus, has more teeth than Smilodon, and is fiercer than T-rex? It must be Megalodon, the giant ancestor of the great white shark that roamed the ancient seas 50 million years ago eating whales. O'Brien, author of Gigantic: How Big Were the Dinosaurs? (1999) is back with another toothy monster to delight young dinosaur fans. Beginning simply and dramatically, showing one giant creature after another, O'Brien builds to his subject, which comes crashing out of the water and onto a two-paged spread featuring his bloody mouth. Then continuing in this engaging style, he gives Megalodon plenty of room to show off as he looms and threatens and shows plenty of his enormous teeth. In fact, the author notes that the only evidence of Megalodon scientists have discovered to date is a few vertebrae and some large fossilized teeth. Using the size of the teeth of the great white shark as a comparison, some scientists predict the ancient shark was 50 feet long. O'Brien's double-paged spreads give ample room to compare this monster to more familiar large beasts: a great white shark or Tyrannosaurus rex. In one telling shot, the jaw of the Megalodon surrounds the standing figure of a man, dressed in a snorkel and pink inner tube. It is this simple approach, laden with enormous kid appeal that will make this sail off the shelves. The author may inspire a whole new generation of treasure hunters as he notes in an afterword that giant fossil teeth have been found all over the world, but "the best place to find them is the eastern United States." For younger readers than Caroline Arnold's Giant Shark: Megalodon, Prehistoric Super Predator (2000). (timeline, tooth facts) (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-8)Read full book review >
THE HINDENBURG by Patrick O’Brien
Released: Oct. 1, 2000

Text and illustrations capture the spirit of the zeppelin, described by inventor Hugo Eckener, as ". . . like a fabulous silvery fish, floating quietly in the ocean of air. O'Brien illustrates the history of the dirigibles with meticulous and striking paintings done in watercolor and gouache on Italian watercolor paper. From the front cover, which shows the fiery orange flaming Hindenburg, to the back, which chronicles the last moments of the ship, the author tells a compelling story not only of the disaster but of the dream that led up to it. Compellingly well-told, beautifully illustrated, and skillfully designed, this is a work that will find a wide audience. O'Brien describes the crash of the Hindenburg, then takes the reader back to the beginning of the story, recounting the work of von Zeppelin in the early 1900s, explaining how the dirigibles were built, tested, and modified. He tells how they were used by Germany in WWI to drop bombs on London, and how after the war, for luxury travel across the Atlantic Ocean. Most fascinating are the step-by-step explanations of the design, building, and workings of the Hindenburg, the supreme pleasure craft, which carried 36 passengers and a crew of 61. The author notes passengers had private rooms, a library, a shower, and a gourmet kitchen that stocked 440 pounds of meat and poultry, 800 eggs, and 220 pounds of butter for the three-day crossing. The final section, "Did You Know?," has additional fascinating facts. For example, "The tower on the top of the Empire State Building was built as a mooring mast. It was never used." For historians, inventors, and dreamers, this one will fly. (Nonfiction. 9-14)Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 2000

This historical survey depicts the changing technology and appearance of locomotives from the 1830s to the 1990s. O'Brien (Gigantic! How Big Were the Dinosaurs?, 1999, etc.) uses the device of a first person account of a fictional young boy whose ancestors are all train engineers. Beginning in the present and going backward in time, vignettes about a circus train, a Jessie James holdup, and a race between a stagecoach and an early locomotive are interspersed with technical information about trains and building the rails of the period. The illustrations help the reader see not only the changing locomotives but also the changing styles of clothing and architecture. A cat in the first picture looks directly at the reader, almost as if asking the reader to accompany her to the past. Her forebears look on in many of the illustrations, leading the eye to details in the watercolor and gouache paintings. The soft-focus style illustrating scenes in the past becomes sharper when depicting technical information. This fictional family may give a sense of time for youngsters, but the mixture of the fictional with the historical leads to questions about the facts. Did a woman really become an engineer in the 1930s? Was there a race between a train and a horse and carriage? How could an engineer make sure that no one got hurt during a train robbery? A pleasant book for the casual reader but not enough substance for the real train enthusiast. (Nonfiction. 4-9)Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1999

O'Brien celebrates 14 prehistoric monsters by presenting each with a modern object or a human, thereby giving readers information about the size of these giants. Dinosaurs, in full-color and full-snarl, dominate the double-page layouts as they frolic and menace an airplane, fire truck, tank, automobile, and assorted people. For every creature, O'Brien provides the name, its meaning, and a brief line of text. Three of the creatures presented are not dinosaurs at all—Quetzalcoatlus, a pterosaur, Phobosuchus, a relative of the crocodiles, and Dinichthys, a bony fish—which the author mentions in the back matter. The illustrations are not drawn to scale, e.g., if Spinosaurus is really 49 feet long, as the text indicates, the car it is shown next to would appear to be 30 feet long. Readers may have to puzzle over a few scenes, but will enjoy browsing through this book, from the dramatic eyeball view of a toothy Tyrannosaurus rex on the cover to the final head-on glare from a Triceratops. (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-9) Read full book review >